Potential suspect for 1974 Birmingham pub bombings identified, say police | Birmingham pub bombings

The chief constable of the West Midlands has said prosecutors have been asked to consider charges against a man for carrying out the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings in which 21 people died.

Sir David Thompson told the Guardian that he hopes someone will be brought to justice following an extensive and “active reinvestigation” with a potential suspect for “the actual bombings themselves” having been identified.

Files have been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service and now specialist prosecutors from its counter-terrorism division will decide if the evidence reaches the threshold to put someone on trial almost 50 years after the atrocities.

The original investigation into the pub bombings led to one of the worst scandals in postwar policing, with six men convicted and then freed after a long battle established police wrongdoing made their convictions unsafe.

On 21 November 1974, two bombs planted by supporters of the Irish Republican Army exploded without warning in two Birmingham city centre pubs. Twenty-one people died and 220 were injured, with a device in a third pub failing to explode.

In 1991 the convictions of six men were finally quashed and police have been under pressure to bring charges over the terrorist atrocity. Their convictions stood for 16 years and the families of those murdered are still to receive justice.

Thompson, who retires next month as the chief constable of the second biggest force in England, said: “My earnest hope is that we get to a position where we bring somebody to justice for it.”

He said the CPS now had to decide whether the evidence gathered by the police reinvestigation was enough to bring charges: “If that does not result in someone being brought to justice, at some stage I would hope what we can do is demonstrate to the public what work we’ve done, because we have done a lot of work on this.”

Asked if detectives had sent evidence to prosecutors to support a murder charge, Thompson said: “I think they are in for a number of areas, but there are charges in relation to the bombings themselves in those files.”

He added: “They do relate to the actual bombings themselves.”

As part of the investigation, police tried and failed to get material from the former member of parliament Chris Mullin, who as a journalist played a crucial role in exposing the miscarriage of justice and wrongful convictions.

Families of those who died have criticised police and Thompson for not doing enough.

The CPS said: “We have accepted a file from the West Midlands police in relation to the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974 and will now begin to review the evidence.”